UK has 'moral duty' to protect Gibraltar's interests in Brexit talks, peers say
Britain has a "moral duty" to ensure that Gibraltar's voice is heard in the Brexit divorce talks with the EU, a Lords committee has insisted.
Peers warned that with 40% of the Rock's workforce crossing over the border from Spain every day, withdrawal from the single market would have significant economic implications.
The fact Gibraltar voted 95.9% to remain in the EU places a special responsibility on London to protect its interests during the Article 50 withdrawal talks, the Lords EU Committee said in a report published today.
The report noted that Gibraltar faces potentially significant economic consequences as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
It added that the extent to which these consequences will be realised hinges both on the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU, and on the reaction of Spain during and after withdrawal.
"We agree with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar that Gibraltar and the UK should be considered, for the purposes of withdrawal negotiations, as a single State. Gibraltar is part of the EU, and its withdrawal is a matter for the UK and the EU collectively, not for a separate, bilateral negotiation between the UK and Spain," the report said.
"Aspects of the agreement on the future UK-EU relationship could nevertheless include specific bilateral arrangements between Spain and Gibraltar, for example in relation to local border traffic management."
Peers strongly supported the UK Government's stance not to enter into sovereignty negotiations with Spain against the will of the Gibraltarian people, but said the two governments and the territory must "redouble" efforts to maintain a beneficial dialogue outside the EU structures.
The committee warned Britain must be vigilant against any attempts by Spain to link the status of Gibraltar to a future trade deal between the UK and EU.
Committee chairman Lord Boswell said: "The people of Gibraltar overwhelmingly supported staying in the EU during the referendum."
"Gibraltar has strong social and cultural ties to Europe, and its economy has been built around access to the EU single market in services."
"Over 10,000 Spanish and other EU national 'frontier workers' also make up 40% of the territory's total workforce."
"Negotiating on Gibraltar's behalf, the UK Government has a moral duty to represent and promote the interests of the Gibraltarian people, during Brexit and beyond."
"It is, of course, possible that the sovereignty dispute with Spain may yet surface in the context of Brexit."
"But we believe it is in the mutual interest of Gibraltar and Spain to maintain a free-flowing frontier and to continue good cross-border police and judicial co-operation."
"We strongly endorse the UK's commitment to defending Gibraltar's sovereignty."
"But we also call on the Government to start thinking now about structures that might facilitate open communication and regional co-operation between Spain, the UK, and Gibraltar after Brexit."
The committee stated: "Gibraltar's most significant economic relationship is with the UK itself, and it will be important for the UK and Gibraltar to maintain and enhance these ties to help mitigate any losses experienced by Gibraltar as a result of Brexit."
"The UK Government should also clarify what future UK-based funding will be available to Gibraltar after 2020 if it can no longer participate in EU programmes following Brexit."
"The UK Government should prioritise Gibraltar as part of its wider commitment to continuing co-operation with the EU on security and policing, to ensure that the border with Spain cannot be exploited by those seeking to evade justice."
"The UK Government must remain alert to and resist any attempts by Spain to involve the sovereignty dispute in EU withdrawal and future trade negotiations, or to encroach upon Gibraltar's sovereignty through the medium of EU laws or policies when the UK is 'out of the room', after Brexit."